View Full Version : Dealing with the press

07-10-2008, 01:18 AM
I can see how this forum can be addictive. I only joined today and keep posting. If I look at what other people are saying too I'll never get my book done ;)

However, something has come up and I don't know how to handle it. I'm in the early stages of writing a book, mostly about my experiences with my daughter. (I explain the book in the "what's your book subject" thread.) I posted on a local listserve seeking information. But a reporter sent me an email asking if I wanted to be profiled in the Washington Post.

Part of me thinks yes ... this could help me get an agent or a publisher down the road. (Or even now)

Part of me thinks no ... I'm still crystalizing my message and doing research. I will be able to give a more coherent and accurate interview when the book is finished. Plus then the interview could help sell copies of the book ... I don't know that they would be interested in two interviews -- and who, reading an early interview and interested in the book, is going to write my name down and check periodically if a book has come out? On the other hand, what if this reporter isn't with the Post once I've finished the book?

Advice, anyone?

If this is the wrong place to post this query, let me know.

07-10-2008, 01:42 AM
Is the interview about the book, or about your experiences. The latter would be a win-win for developing your platform for the book.

07-10-2008, 04:10 AM
First of all, it's always good to be contacted by a reporter, especially with the Post! What kind of listserv were you on? (Because maybe I should be doing the same!)

I assume s/he'll probably stay on board with the paper for a while, but nevertheless my gut reaction is to seize the opportunity as soon as possible. Not only will the reporter be a possible endorser for the book, but you never know who is going to read the article and want to get in touch with you (let alone buy the book). As the other reply said, it's a great way to start building a platform for the future.

The reporter (or rather, the section editor) isn't going to profile you if you aren't a compelling story, and from your post in the 'what's your subject' thread it certainly sounds like you've got that covered. I would hope if you're able to write a memoir about the experience that you'd be able to articulate a few quotes about it (you're essentially going to have to do this for a query letter anyway).

I wouldn't be terribly worried about not having all the research done (doing any research shows you're pro-active anyways) because the reporter shouldn't expect you to be an expert on the subject (and as your post said, even the experts aren't really experts!).

If you get asked something you're not ready for (or willing to answer), just say so. If you send an email to the reporter before the interview, I'd bet they'd be willing to give you an idea of what they're going to ask so you can prepare.

Sounds like a great opportunity, take advantage of it! (And let us know when it appears in the Post!)

07-10-2008, 06:11 AM
Do the interview! Your phrase about "still crystalizing" the ideas is the perfect answer to any question to which you don't know the answer. As an exercise, you might try to draft answers to likely questions, just to be prepared and calm your nerves a little. Just remember - no one is a better expert on your story than you.

good luck!

07-10-2008, 04:35 PM
Thanks for the advice. I suppose I can always ask the reporter what he thinks would be better for the book. He's a professional writer, and I'm not :D

This listserve is for special needs parents in my county. I don't know, but it could be that the reporter is in this category or that is his beat. It just dawned on me it would be useful to look up some of his work.

He did say that he hadn't checked this idea with his editor, so I don't want to get too excited yet.

The idea of asking what he wants to talk about is useful.

My hesitation is in part not wanting to say something that is wrong. For years, I thought my daughter's language and other delays were due to her repeated ear infections in the first two years of her life. When she turned two and our pediatrician said it was time to get tested, it was found that her tympanograms were flat. A long course of antibiotics, still flat. She had tubes put in and then language started to develop. I assumed that the two were related. At the time, doctors were saying this sort of thing.

I kick myself for years about not doing anything about my daughter's problems earlier. Doing research now I find that it makes no difference whether the tubes go in early or late, and no ultimate difference whether they go in at all, at least in terms of language development.

I suppose I could always talk to the reporter about writing the book and use this example of how conventional wisdom or advice can be wrong.

07-10-2008, 05:57 PM
Welcome! And yes, do the interview!
No matter what stage of the game you are in, there's the possibilitiy of mis-speaking, even the best do it on occasion, so just go in as prepared as possible. The suggestions you've been given about preparing a list of potential questions is a good one. I would also suggest you do a mock interview with a friend or relative with that list to get a feel for the live process. You may also ask the reporter what he wants to cover, but as busy as most are, he may not get back to you ahead of time. It is also totally permissible to send him a brief list of topics/questions you suggest he could focus on.

I do want to note though that I don't advise asking the reporter whether or not now is a good time to do the interview. His job is to fill his section giving readers something they are interested in and he feels your story fits the bill. His concern is not that it will or will not sell books for you now or later.

If the interview does happen there are several ways to use it now. First, when you get/if you have a website, find out if the piece is archived online and see if you can link to it, or if you'd be allowed to excerpt it and put it right on your site. Some pubs let you, some charge. Always worth asking.

Either way, a big thing will be to note that the interview occurred when you put together your media page/media kit. This tells other potential reporters/interviewers that someone else has successfully worked with you (and having it be the Wash Post is certainly a good one to start with :-)) and that gives them confidence to want to do an interview with you also.

Also, many experts recommend you start getting your name out there way before the book is done, 6 mos, a year, not a problem. For example, it's easy to start a free blog on Blogger.com or Wordpress to start building a readership, that's another place where you'll mention your interview. As has been mentioned, if you have any thought of publishing traditionally, it is virtually a requirement to have a at least some following/platform established. This is a great opportunity to add a building block.

If you need some good resources on working with media, publicity, http://www.publicityhound.com is one of the best.

You can do it!

07-18-2008, 09:08 AM
I agree, an interview in itself is a hard thing to gain. Do it, and hopefully others will follow, and inturn provide you with a ready made audiance when the book is finished.

07-19-2008, 12:00 AM
Getting an interview is harder than expected ... I decided to send him back an email and say I was interested in talking to him. Now a week has gone by and I haven't heard back. I don't know if he is busy, not interested anymore, or his editor said no (or hasn't gotten back to him yet on the idea).


I guess I should send another email. He could at least tell me if it isn't going to happen. :cry:

07-19-2008, 05:25 AM
Journalists are fickle and always in a hurry. My wife and I have each been interviewed countless times, and the pattern is almost always the same. Their editor has given them a deadline - TOMORROW - and they need an 'expert' right away. Or even if it's a feature which they have weeks to research, they still either line up their interview subjects in advance, or they want to cover a certain angle for that day's research. Or they're just fishing for a topic and seeing whether there are sufficient resources or topics of interest, as it seems in the case of your journalist. In any case, it's always a good idea to say yes or no immediately. Otherwise they'll just find some other expert, or shelve the entire topic until later.

Even if you do respond right away, it doesn't mean you'll hear back from them immediately. And even if you are interviewed, it doesn't mean they'll use your material, or even spell your name correctly!

Don't lose hope, though. You never know how this journalist is organizing things. He/she might be simply collecting resources. They rarely write back to say "thanks, I'll contact you when I'm ready". So it's quite possible you're on the list and will be surprised with a phone call. Be prepared to commit to a time right then and there. You just never can tell.

Remember too that you're doing THEM a favor by offering your time so that THEY can write THEIR story. They will almost always make it sound like they are the one doing YOU the favor. Which of course they are. But don't forget that the benefit is mutual. So be calm when they contact you.

Send a follow-up e-mail for sure, and politely ask for a response. Definitely worth doing the interview. The clipping can't hurt when pitching your book.

08-06-2008, 03:21 AM
I am having the same trouble....I am being interviewed this week to be featured on a bigger website. I don't know what she is going to ask me. I only know that our 'topic' is in common which is why she wants to feature me.

I'm afraid of sounding like an idiot...or too small for her website...I just wonder why anyone would want to interview someone about a book before it's been picked up by a publisher...

08-06-2008, 03:44 AM
You mention that your topics are the same, and then also that you wonder why anyone would want to talk about a book before it's very far into the publishing process.

My first thought is, the interviewer is not looking at you as an author, but as an expert in your topic. I just glanced at your site, didn't notice anything right off about a book in the works. How did you/she bring up the topic? If by chance she misunderstood that you have a book now, simply clarify with her that it's in the works. That may be perfectly fine, many people never even get that far. If she balks, offer to keep in touch.

As far as sounding "small", as long as you know your stuff, there's really no such thing, especially on the web. Plenty of sites are just one person, and many start as simple blogs and grow from there.

Yes, there are degrees of experts, but obviously, whatever you've spoken about thus far, or what you have on your site impressed her enough to make the request. It's mostly about having confidence when you speak with her. You need to believe in yourself as much as she apparently does! :-)

If you have time, I don't see anything wrong with asking her the focus of the interview, so that you can better prepare. I don't know of many writers/journalists who'd be offended by this request. Afterall, the better the interview is, the better you both look to her audience.

Hope that helps. Best of luck!

08-06-2008, 03:56 AM
Thank you I found that very helpful. I am a lot more confident in an interview than I am in here...this is my therapy! LOL!

I pretty much 'invented' my book idea so my true worry is, if I talk about it/market it too much someone will steal my idea before I get it published. But how else am I supposed to gain exposure? Right?

Someone said in another thread that to 'steal an idea' they would still have to go through the process of getting it published and I am already ahead of them. Which is a very good point.

I just wonder how much is just enough to keep them interested?

And to answer you other questions...I answered her query on HARO. www.helpareporterout.com. This has landed me some excellent contacts and interviews. She does know I am writing a book because I wrote about it in my pitch to her.

I do like your idea about asking in advance...I will do that now. ;)

08-06-2008, 04:18 AM
Always nice to hear my ramblings are helpful :-)

As for "telling too much", you don't have to give away all your secrets to keep things interesting. Basically, what it comes down to is if you are planning a book you have to have deep enough content to keep an audience interested anyway. You also will have a hook that makes it unique. You don't necessarily want to reveal all about those things until you're actually doing pre-publication/pre-order publicity, but you can certainly use a tidbit or two to build your audience list now. Many people say it's never too early for that.

With regard to theft, one of my favorite quotes from Jeff Herring (Internet Article Guy) is "There are more people who want to learn about your topic, who can only hear about it from you, than you can ever get to in a lifetime.

Everyone presents info in a unique way (or at least you need to if you intend to sell it), even if an idea is stolen, there's a pretty slim chance someone else will present it in the same way you will while reaching the exact people you would. Again, you should be able to be helpful and give good info, without giving away your best stuff. If not, you probably need to put together a little more stuff.

08-06-2008, 06:06 AM
I wrote the interviewer 2 sentences asking for topics so I could prepare examples if she needed them....she gave me the info and said it would be more informal than that.

I wrote back, that I just didn't want want to be under prepared if she wanted more in depth information.

She said, "I totally understand. I appreciate your effort."

Wooo Hooo! Thanks Cheryl because of you I already have brownie points and I haven't even been interviewed yet! ;)

08-11-2008, 04:48 AM
As an author and former "fickle" journalist, as referenced by Billingsgate, my advice is to never turn down an interview with the press. Yes, the Post journalist is probably collecting names for possible interviews -- and quite possibly your window of opportunity has already shut. Don't hesitate. But if you land the interview, the reporter is a contact in major media that you can later try and leverage when/if your book is published.

Book reviews/features/profiles are difficult to get in the major media and you should take advantage of every opportunity to glean good contacts. Good luck.

08-11-2008, 05:35 AM
I agree . . . take every media opportunity that comes your way, and try and bring more your way.

08-12-2008, 12:47 AM
Just to bring things up to date -- I did contact the journalist a second time by email, he apologized and said he would get back to me at the end of the week. This was two weeks ago.

So I'm frustrated. I don't want to nag. I suppose it could be that he has had time-sensitive stories (I've seen a couple since he sent the first email) and I'm just a fallback story when nothing much is happening :)

08-12-2008, 12:55 AM
Opportunity is knocking and it's always hard to get exposure--I say take it! I hope you can get in touch with him!